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Swakopmund the German Colonial Period 1884 - 1915

German Protectorate Territory Sign

German Protectorate


1883: Five hundred kilometres to the south of Swakopmund the German explorer - entrepreneur Adolf Luderitz had founded the settlement at Angra Pequena which had been named Luderitz-Land and was officially placed under the protection of the German Reich in 1884. German influence had spread quickly north into Hereroland, and east to an agreed border with British Bechuanaland.

The Germans were somewhat daunted at the enormous task of trying to develop this vast and primitive desert land. The early pioneers were soon to realize that the new found colony would need a port at a closer proximity to the central highlands than Luderitz. The British annexed

Walvis Bay as early as 1878 and had an established firm presence there, so the mouth of the 'Tsauk-Haub' river with its lagoon of drinkable water was considered a possible location. In 1884 the Imperial Navy Gunboat 'Wolf' anchored off the mouth of the river and sent a landing party ashore to raise the German flag.


Kapt. Kurt Von Francois founder of Swakopmund

Kurt Von Francois


1889: German Expeditionary Force:

1889 Captain Kurt Von Francois with a small contingent of Schutztruppe landed at Sa Bay, previously named by the British, and known as Sandwich Harbour. They brought with them several camels, the first of many that would see service the country. The party journeyed north and scouted the area around the mouth of the Swakop River and submitted an encouraging report to the German authorities.

1892: Kurt von Francois:

The German Imperial Navy Gunboat 'Hyena' anchored off the mouth of the Tsauk-Haub River and

a landing party erected two beacons. One was positioned at point where the Mole is presently situated, and a second on a high dune, possibly where the lighthouse was eventually built. These beacons marked the place where the new town was to be built.


Woermann Line Ship 1893: 23 August The 'Marie Woermann' (1,772 ton) Anchors Off Swakopmund

The ship offloaded at 'Swakopmund' 120 Schutztruppe and 40 civilians along with a few livestock and equipment considered necessary to establish a settlement. There were no buildings in which to house the early pioneers and many dug and lived in sand caves in order to gain some shelter from the elements.


1894: The year witnessed the visit of four merchant vessels carrying many of the goods required to help with the building of the new town, and the following year saw five more vessels deliver goods to Swakopmund.


1897: The population had risen to 113. Post and Telegraphic services were quickly introduced and enabled contact with Europe and the world. The first telephone service in the country was introduced in Swakopmund in October 1901.


1904: The Herero Uprising on 11 January brought an initial chaos to the fledgling colony. The economy collapsed, but soon thousands of reinforcement troops along with all the paraphernalia of early twentieth century warfare would pour through Swakopmund until 1907 when the 'rebellions' were finally quelled.



Schutztruppe horsemasters unloading livestock 1904

Mules Coming Ashore

Unloading from barges early 1900s

Offloading at Swakopmund Beach

Military and Police Offices and Quarters

Military & Police HQ Swakopmund


Acknowledgements and further reading: A1,H5, H8, H11, M3, P2


Orange Bullet  Swakopmund History Pt 2

Of Interest: The Hottentots referred to the mouth of the river as the 'Tsoak-haub' meaning to push out. They viewed the river when it flooded to the coast as being the earth's way of excreting the rubbish of the seasonally dry river into the sea. The Swakop River last flooded down to the sea in 1999. Silt and tree debris was washed into the sea which was colored brown for about three weeks.

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